Tuesday, June 12, 2012

R was a good audience and a tough critic, the first and loudest to laugh at one of my quirky ideas or shoot it down with pinpoint accuracy. She had a chaise longue covered in cat hair and there I’d nap after a long bike ride from the lower right to the upper left on a humid summer afternoon. She had two rooms. The living room had a window A/C unit. She kept it closed off from the hallway and the bedroom. It was such a relief to be there out of the misery of the searing city, all dusty schist and oily asphalt. She’d mix me a scotch and water and make spaghetti con quale, which is what she called anything she had in the fridge. She was an excellent cook, a balabusta, a black sheep, a sentimentalist, a cynic. 

She had asthma, gave herself frequent blasts from an inhaler. I was no stranger to it. Grandma had one. They shared that affliction and the same visible sense of relief spread across their faces as the chemical did its magic. R was a namedropper, although most of the names meant nothing to me. She had brushes with near great and wonderfully interesting people, but that seemed to have happened ten or twenty years before I became her friend. She was a busybody. Eventually, I had to learn to keep things from her, most important, to keep my distance.

For a dozen years we were unlikely friends. She was D’s age, had grown up with him. I was just finishing college when we met. Once, when I woke from a snooze, she said to me “I watched you sleeping and I could see how you’d look as an old man. You’re going to hold up pretty well.” Did I? I’m older, but maybe not yet as old as she saw me. No way of knowing what she saw or how close her future vision was to my present reality. She’s gone now and she has taken that picture with her.

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